Thursday, January 16, 2014

Parshat Yitro, (Exodus 19:7-19:19)-1/16/2014

I decided to be have a Bar Mitzvah. I think my best reason is that I want to understand more of what made my parents so kind and loving. There are many more reasons ... but I've now committed to studying the Torah everyday ... so here it goes.

Moses wanted the Jews to hear G_d, who was obliging, but had many requirements for this conversation. The requirements themselves seem respectful for this auspicious occasion, though some substitute requirements would probably have sufficed. I think the idea is that the people are preparing their bodies, their clothes, and their minds for this conversation.

I was particularly interested in the passage at Exodus 19:15 where Moses said to the people, "Be ready for three days; do not go near a woman." At first I thought that this meant that women are not pure. But then I heard this from the rabbi at that women are pure, and it is question of semen that is not pure when it is outside the body. Intercourse is pure, I suspect, because the semen is still contained, but when the woman emits "lively" semen that is less that three days old, it contaminates the women. I suppose if the woman were to hold the semen in until it lost its potency it (and she) would never become impure.

One might wonder who makes this stuff up ... that some things are pure and some things aren't. The Zen teacher, Dogen (1200-1253) said that there is no place where you can spit (meaning that everything was sacred). I recently piled some chairs under a Buddhist altar and my Zen teacher scolded me. I reminded him what Dogen said, and he said that some places are more sacred than others.

In the end, we each have a means of preparation for an important moment. We might count to ten, or we might clean up. Whatever we do, we become ready. Reading the Torah teaches me tolerance for crazy rules. And then, as I look in the mirror, I realize that my own rules are at least as crazy as the ones conveyed by Moses. (I just told my wife about all this ... who confirmed that these rules, like mine, are crazy.)

Moses talking to his people about their upcoming meeting with G_d

1 comment:

  1. Why are women unclean during menstruation? They are discharging menses, but menses are not "potent" in the way sperm are. Or did the Jews think menses are sexually potent?

    Nietzsche suggests that the real point of all ancient religious and cultural regulations was nothing more than the desperate need to obey a rigid law. The arbitrariness of the law was inconsequential. He believes that the drives, instincts, desires, appetites, etc. of ancient peoples (not just Jews) were so strong and chaotic and unregulated that they needed some strong external coercive force to make the people behave. This need drove them to construct all sorts of crazy regulations with severe punishments for disobedience. Over hundreds of years, the human constitution changed so that individuals were able to become more self regulating. It's analogous to the development of children. When kids are young, they need external authorities to regulate their behavior, but as they mature they become capable (hopefully) of self regulation.

    Nevitt Reesor


Thanks for commenting. One cannot study the Torah alone.